Majority of Americans Will Not Receive Their Maximum Social Security Benefits

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Experts agree it’s important to start saving for retirement as early as possible and save the maximum amount you can, based on your income, in an individual retirement account or your 401(k) — especially if your employer offers matching funds.

See: A Growing List of States Look to Boost Retire Savings Through ‘Auto-IRA’ ProgramsFind: 5 Things Most Americans Don’t Know About Social Security

But many Americans nearing retirement age are leaving money on the table when it comes to their Social Security benefits. Only 10% of non-retired workers ages 45 and up say they plan to wait until age 70 to begin drawing Social Security, according to Schroders’ 2021 U.S. Retirement Survey. That’s the age at which you receive your maximum monthly benefit.

Many Americans who want to retire before the age of 70 need their Social Security benefits to cover their living expenses. “Social Security is the primary source of income for the majority of Americans we surveyed, which is why we were surprised to see so many deciding not to wait until 70 for larger monthly payments; or worse, sacrificing their full benefits by tapping into them early,” says Joel Schiffman, Schroders’ head of Intermediary Distribution, North America.

However, for those who haven’t saved enough to cover their expenses in retirement, tapping into Social Security early is the only choice. More than half (52%) of non-retired Americans and 58% of retirees said Social Security will be, or already is, their primary source of retirement income. The majority — 64% of those who are not yet retired and 62% of those who are — said it won’t be enough to live on.

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See: 17 Tips to Live Comfortably off Just a Social Security CheckFind: The Best Time of Year to Retire (to Maximize Your Benefits)

Other sources of income include:

  • Cash savings (58%)
  • Investment income (48%)
  • Pension plan (40%)
  • Annuities (19%)
  • Rental income (12%)

These statistics hammer home the importance of starting a 401(k), a Simplified Employee Pension IRA, Roth IRA or other investment to save for retirement, since Social Security is likely not to cover all your living expenses in your senior years. Additionally, Schiffman points out, “Waiting a few extra years before claiming your benefits can provide a much-needed cushion for future expenses.”

See: States Where Your Retirement Will Cost Less Than $45,000 a YearFind: 29 Brilliant Retirement Ideas for Any Age

If they aren’t waiting until age 70, when do non-retired Americans plan to take their Social Security benefits? According to the Schroders survey:

  • 30% plan to begin taking Social Security between the ages of 62 and 65.
  • 14% plan to take benefits between the ages of 66 and 69.
  • 46% said they are unsure.

Of retirees polled, only 5% said they waited until they were 70 to claim their benefits.

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